Claudia Chan, Piano, @ Gallery 345 reviewed by Stanley Fefferman

Friday, September 24, 2010, Gallery 345, Toronto.

This is Claudia Chan looking like she is part of the piano, which she is, and looking like she is resting which she isn’t. She is busy playing part one of John Corigliano’s Etude Fantasy (1967) for the left hand alone, which the composer describes as a “bold, often ferocious statement”. Ms. Chan communicated a sense of ease and of having fun with this ‘frenetically charged’ composition containing ‘trills, grace notes, tremolos, glissandos, roulades’ and a scherzando ‘where the four fingersĀ  of the left hand softly play a low cluster of notes (like a distant drum) as the thumb alternates with the right hand in rapid, barbaric thrusts.’

Ms. Chan seemed right in her element, bringing outĀ  engaging, jazzy, playful elements of Sophia Gubaidulina’s updated treatment of a Renaissance dance, Chaconne for Piano (1962). This is a virtuosic piece, with opposing forces of controlled rhythmic movements, variants of tempo and intensity, incantatory, enigmatic and obsessional repetitions of notes. Ms. Chan seems at her best when there is a lot going on.

She seemed to have difficulty, at the beginning of her program, making sense of Franz Schubert’s clean, straightforward, melodious Piano Sonata No.13 in A major D.664, Op.120. By the ‘Finale’, Ms. Chan’s native humour, playfulness, her comfort with stop and go rhythms, found a place to come out. She seemed to relax further into the intricate and complex harmonies, the forward looking improvisatory variations and technical difficulties of Chopin’s Polonaise-Fantasie in F minor, Op.49.

Ms. Chan, 20, completing her B.Music at the Glenn Gould School, is already a recognizable specialist in contemporary piano. As confirmation of this, she recently won first prize of the 33rd Echkardt-Gramatte National Piano Competition for Contemporary Music.

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